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Page last updated at 21:17 GMT, Friday, 18 December 2009

United States stars trounce Europe at Duel in the Pool

British Gas Duel in the Pool
Venue: Manchester Aquatics Centre Date: 18-19 December 2009
Coverage: 19 December: 1345-1630 GMT, BBC One and online (UK only)

Video - Phelps wins 100m butterfly

By Ollie Williams
BBC Sport in Manchester

The United States obliterated their rivals on day one of Duel in the Pool in Manchester to leave Europe chasing a deficit of 89 points to 33.

The US led from the start in the event, where points are scored in head-to-head contests, winning two relays with ease.

Legendary US swimmer Michael Phelps won the 100m butterfly by a fingertip on his competitive debut in Britain.

Fran Halsall's two victories were some consolation for Europe, with Lizzie Simmonds earning their only other win.

Halsall narrowly missed a world record in her 100m freestyle victory, then won the women's 100m butterfly in a British record time after Simmonds had claimed the 200m backstroke title.


"I put quite a lot of pressure on myself because I've been swimming quite well recently and I think I got over-excited with the crowd being here," said the 19-year-old.

"I was a bit disappointed with how I swam but I got the points on the board for the team. The 100 fly - I was just getting into what I can do. I really enjoyed it and got a big personal best."

But high points for the sell-out crowd at the Manchester Aquatics Centre were otherwise incredibly hard to come by, and the European team - composed of swimmers from Britain, Germany and Italy - must fear similar treatment when the meet concludes on Saturday.

Duel in the Pool organisers had surrounded the pool with a feast of light and sound to help fans raise the roof in support of Europe, but the US team's performances in water were what mattered.

While the margin of defeat appears eye-watering, a hefty defeat for Europe, missing vital talent in the likes of Paul Biedermann, Federica Pellegrini and Jo Jackson, was always on the cards.

Ever since I've been on the national team in 2000 we've always wanted to come out the first day and make a big mark and try to make a statement

Michael Phelps

British members of the European team have portrayed the attention of the US as a sign of their emerging power, but the way in which the US clinically dispatched some top British names - Liam Tancock's struggle against Nick Thoman in the men's medley relay being an example - lends perspective to the progress that is undoubtedly being made.

America, often hailed as the swimming superpower of the world, dominated from the outset, crushing Europe in the curtain-raising men's and women's 4x100 medley relays.

Three short-course world records had already been set by the time the relays finished.

The US women's team won in a world record three minutes and 47.97 seconds after Britain's Gemma Spofforth failed to build a sufficient lead swimming the first leg.

The US men then set a world mark of their own, which included Thoman posting a separate record of 48.94 seconds in his backstroke leg.

Video - Adlington beaten in 400m freestyle

Julia Smit shaved almost two seconds off the women's 400m individual medley world record to send the US 21 points clear after only one individual event, with teams earning seven points for a relay win, five for an individual win, three for second and one for third.

Halsall's 100m freestyle victory in a time of 51.54 seconds, ahead of America's Dana Vollmer, provided temporary relief for the floundering Europeans, but the US were soon back on the pace as Nathan Adrian wrapped up the men's equivalent - Phelps, in his first individual event in the UK, finished back in third.

Simmonds won the 200m backstroke in 2:00.91 as the fast-paced action, with heats shunned in favour of back-to-back finals, continued apace, only for Matt Grevers to surprise US rival Aaron Peirsol in the men's event. Thoman edged into second ahead of Peirsol to seal the first of his team's three one-two-three finishes.

Rebecca Soni, a hot favourite for the US going into the women's 200m breaststroke, delivered another world record to pile the pressure on Europe, and Halsall's 100m fly win in 55.71 seconds did little to stem the tide.

Phelps, sporting a 2010 textile swimsuit made of a slower material than the 2009 polyurethane models sported by many of his rivals, looked set to miss out again in the men's 100m fly, only to produce a trademark final turn and power home just five hundredths of a second ahead of Germany's Benjamin Starke.

All credit to them tonight but I think we'll come back tomorrow with a new mindset to just go for it again and do the best we can

Lizzie Simmonds

"I kind of feel like I'm at home," said Phelps. "We wanted to come here tonight and wanted to keep the ball rolling.

"Everything is a stepping stone for 2012 and this is a good way to start.

"Ever since I've been on the national team in 2000 we've always wanted to come out the first day and make a big mark and try to make a statement.

"We came out today and had a big day."

The stage was set for Rebecca Adlington, winner of gold in the 400m freestyle at the Beijing Olympics, to repeat the trick in front of a home crowd and buoy their spirits late on.

But US swimmer Allison Schmitt delivered a stunning swim to push Adlington, also in a 2010 suit, back into a distant second.

Peter Vanderkaay won Friday's finale, the men's 400m freestyle, to hand the US a blistering - and insurmountable - 56-point lead heading into Saturday's events.

Despite the scoreline, Simmonds, who was narrowly outside the world record in the 200m backstroke, believes Europe can respond on Saturday.

"I think everyone is having a great time, they are all doing the best they can," the Loughborough swimmer said.

"The Americans have got a very top team and a lot of depth as well. They seem to be rocking out swim after swim.

"All credit to them tonight but I think we'll come back tomorrow with a new mindset to just go for it again and do the best we can."

European select team:

From Britain: David Davies, James Goddard, Thomas Haffield, Michael Rock, Liam Tancock, Christopher Walker-Hebborn, Robbie Renwick, Rebecca Adlington, Francesca Halsall, Hannah Miley, Keri-Anne Payne, Elizabeth Simmonds, Gemma Spofforth, Caitlin McClatchey, Jaz Carlin.
From Germany: Steffen Deibler, Hendrik Feldwehr, Marco Koch, Benjamin Starke, Annika Melhorn, Caroline Ruhnau, Daniela Schreiber, Daniela Samulski.
From Italy: Fedrico Colbertaldo, Christian Galenda, Edoardo Giorgetti, Filippo Magnini, Luca Marin, Joseph Davide Natullo, Fabio Scozzoli, Ilaria Bianchi, Chiara Boggiatto, Caterina Giacchetti, Ilaria Scarcella, Francesca Segat.

United States team:

Nathan Adrian, Mike Alexandrov, Jack Brown, Tyler Clary, Mark Gangloff, Matt Grevers, Michael Klueh, Chad La Tourette, Sean Mahoney, Tyler McGill, Aaron Peirsol, Michael Phelps, Kevin Swander, Nick Thoman, Alex Vanderkaay, Peter Vanderkaay, Garrett Weber-Gale, Elizabeth Beisel, Missy Franklin, Katy Freeman, Jessica Hardy, Margaret Hoelzer, Katie Hoff, Dagny Knutson, Ariana Kukors, Christine Magnuson, Amber McDermott, Hayley McGregory, Mary DeScenza, Elizabeth Pelton, Allison Schmitt, Julia Smit, Rebecca Soni, Dana Vollmer, Amanda Weir.

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see also
Duel in the Pool day one as it happened
18 Dec 09 |  Swimming
Phelps set to face European test
18 Dec 09 |  Swimming
Phelps cagey on 2012 medal target
17 Dec 09 |  Swimming
GB stars 'can make names' at Duel
25 Nov 09 |  Swimming
US stars 'wary of British threat'
28 Oct 09 |  Swimming
Swimming world records in Rome
03 Aug 09 |  Swimming
Hi-tech suits banned from January
31 Jul 09 |  Swimming

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